The antivirus software pioneer, McAfee held himself up as an expert on cybersecurity and crypto-currency
John McAfee, the antivirus software pioneer, has been indicted on fraud and money-laundering conspiracy charges stemming from two crypto-currency schemes, said the US Justice Department.
McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Gale Watson Jr. were accused by the authorities for exploiting McAfee’s large Twitter following to artificially inflate prices of “altcoins” through a so-called pump-and-dump scheme, and concealing payments McAfee received from start-up businesses to promote initial coin offerings.
McAfee and his accomplices reaped more than $13 million from the schemes. The charges were brought in Manhattan federal court, said the Justice Department.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed related civil charges concerning the alleged pump-and-dump scheme.
“As alleged, McAfee and Watson exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging crypto-currency market to make millions through lies and deception”, Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
Lawyers for the antivirus software pioneer, McAfee could not immediately be identified. McAfee is being detained in Spain following his arrest there on tax evasion charges announced in October, said the Justice Department.
The department added that Watson was arrested on Thursday night in Texas.
Watson’s attorney Arnold Spencer said in a statement: “Jimmy Watson is a decorated veteran and former Navy Seal. He fought for other people’s rights and liberties, and he is entitled to and looks forward to his day in court to exercise some of those very rights”
Also, both have faced civil charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which in October accused the antivirus software pioneer of concealing more than $23.1 million he made from boosting seven crypto-currency offerings on Twitter.
In the crypto-currency cases, authorities said McAfee touted assets including Verge, Reddcoin and Dogecoin as part of a “Coin of the Day” or “Coin of the Week” tweet from around December 2017 through February 2018.
The antivirus software pioneer, McAfee held himself up as an expert on cyber security and crypto-currency through his tweets, speeches and his role as a CEO of a publicly traded crypto-currency company, the authorities said. They also accused him of telling followers he had no stake in the coins, even as he touted how they “will change the world”.